Author's Note: I stumbled upon Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars trilogy while perusing through Border's after work one day and fell in love with the idea of the books. He takes the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland and makes it an intriguing and highly enjoyable story that is completely different and makes you forget that The Looking Glass Wars world came after and isn't the real story. To anyone ready to enjoy a good story: his series is it.
Disclaimer: These characters are strictly the creations of Frank Beddor and Lewis Carroll. Any mistakes are mine and very much unintended.
A Separate Life: The Meaning of Sacrifice
Dodge Anders had only been a child when he was suddenly and violently thrown into adulthood at age ten. The day Redd and The Cat took his family and his hope away. Now, thirteen years later, he was only a pale shadow of who he used to be. He could no longer imagine life if Redd had not taken the throne and made so many violent, bloody changes in Wonderland that made it into an unlivable slum of artificial crystal users, alcoholics, and degenerates. The once possible future that the Heart queendom had talked about seemed more like a fairytale in one of Alyss's books now. Unrealistic and a silly child's game.
Dodge's heart pulled at the thought of his lost princess. Even after so many years, many of the Wonderlanders who made up the Alyssians still felt the loss of the light that had been the seven-year-old Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland queendom. Sighing softly, the Alyssian's best fighter turned in his bedroll to stare at the piece of sky that showed through the branches of the Everlasting Forest's trees, as he always did when he thought about the little girl he had loved years ago. The few stars he could see winked as a soft breeze stirred the mostly silent forest. The twenty-three-year-old turned back on his side, shut his eyes, and tried to forget Alyss. Tried to forget the last moment he saw her, huddled and frightened under the table in the South Dining Room, face streaked with tears, dust and blood.
The fighter's eyes flew open and he threw off his bedroll's blankets in frustration. It was obvious that he wasn't going to get to sleep anytime soon. Dodge pulled on his worn, leather boots and a roughly spun shirt before making his way to the other side of the Alyssian camp to where Bibwit Harte was sitting, staring methodically into his fire crystal.
"Young Dodge, good evening," the tutor said, not turning around.
"How'd you know it was me, Bibwit?" the young man asked, sitting on a log across from Alyss's former teacher.
The older man touched his rather large, paper-thin ears delicately and smiled slightly. "While as of late, my learned self had only hear sadness and viciousness, I would recognize your steps anywhere after years of listening. I also recognized that frustrated sigh. It only happens on nights you are unable to sleep. On nights you think of her."
Dodge closed his eyes in pain for a brief moment and struggled to smile at the teacher of queens.
"You know me all to well," he said, shaking his head as he leaned closer to Bibwit's fire crystal, eyes sad.
The pale tutor watched the Alyssian fighter carefully, analyzing the pain the other man must feel and the burden that he carried. Not only did he shoulder the responsibility of the loss of the princess, which he couldn't have prevented, he was a man obsessed with his one goal. To kill The Cat.
"I know believe this to be important, young Dodge," Bibwit said quietly. "But what shall you do when you finally kill The Cat? Your revenge will be empty and you will just be a husk, left with no purpose in life."
The younger man's fingertips brushed the four parallel scars that marred his otherwise smooth check, a gift from Redd's chief assassin. His face hardened.
"He took everything from me that day," Dodge said, voice filled with venom. "My life, my family. Everything I held dear, Bibwit. The only think I pray for now is the strength to get rid of the rest of that flea-bitten cur's lives and, when he's twitching with my sword through his body and I feel the life run out of him, it will be over. I'll try and kill Redd if possible. If I die, I die. I am a man with nothing to lose and nothing to gain."
Bibwit gazed sadly at the man before him.
"What would Alyss say if she saw you now?" the tutor asked sorrowfully, his long fingertips pulling his dark, flowing robe closer to his body.
"Alyss is dead," spat Dodge, voice as cold as steel and as distant and the bleak future.
The pale man's ears twitched as he nodded gravely. "The princess may indeed be dead, but her spirit is not. Her spirit is the reason these Wonderlanders risk death everyday," Bibwit said gently, gesturing to the sprawling camp. "You are not the only one to have lost something that say and would do well to remember that."
Dodge flushed slightly at the tutor's reprimand. He didn't like Bibwit scolding him like a selfish child who did not get his way. He stood up and gave his companion a curt nod.
"I will try to keep that in mind," he said, fingers itching to write. "Forgive my ignorance."
"I am only telling you what your father would. And it is not me who needs to forgive you. You need to forgive yourself."
As Dodge made his way back to his tent and bedroll, he thought about what Bibwit had said. Looking around the camp, he saw the sacrifice these people had made. He saw the hunger in their eyes and saw this distended bellies of the young Wonderlands, many of whom didn't know how they came to live in a tent community in the Everlasting Forest. All they knew were grumbling, empty bellies ad the possibility that one or both of their parents may not make it home. Suddenly, Dodge felt ashamed of his words. Bibwit had been right, as usual. His actions and words seemed highly selfish when he considered what others had given up, not just himself.
The dark-haired fighter grabbed his bedroll that lay outside his tent and tied back the tent's flaps so he could watch the camp as he wrote. He pulled a blackened, wooden desk over to his blanketless cot, where he sat. Dodge ran a hand over the carefully crafted table. Almost every Alyssian in the camp had something made out of this wood, the remnants of the part of the Whispering Woods that Redd had burnt down when trying to flush out the Alyssians. It was a reminder of the sacrifice the rebellion required. Something he had forgotten.
Opening a drawer and pulling out a fresh sheet of homemade paper and charcoal pen, Dodge began to think of what he would say. Each time he wrote, it was different, reflecting the day. But tonight, it would be different. The only thing that would remain the same would be the beginning.
Alyss…Thirteen years later and I still miss you everyday.
Dodge scribbles furiously, penning out a letter to someone who would never read it. He wrote of how angry he was and of what Bibwit had said. Of his shame and lack of regard for his life and how, at times, it saddened him or made him reckless with the lives of others.
Bibwit says I must forgive myself before anything else, but how can do that? How can I forget my failure to you and my father? Would you recognize me at all, Alyss? Because when I see myself in a looking glass, I don't recognize the person that stares back.
When Dodge finished the three-page letter, he added it to the rest of the letters he had written to Alyss over the last thirteen years. He retied the ribbon that bound them together and ran a gentle hand over the soft satin. The ribbon was faded and stained with blood from the day of Redd's coup. It had tumbled out of Alyss's hair when Redd had tried to strangle the princess, unbeknownst to Dodge. All he knew was that was the only piece of Alyss he had left. He had found it as he had hurriedly helped pull survivors through the wreckage of the South Dining Room.
He placed the bundle back into one of the table's drawers and put the blackened wood back on the other side of the tent. Suddenly, the Alyssian felt exhausted. As he lay down on his cot, Dodge let a few tears escape for his lost love, before once again locking his heart away deep within his chest.
A/N: Dodge happens to be one of my favorite characters in The Looking Glass Wars trilogy. I think he's so intriguing and it's interesting to observe the immense change that happens to him after his father is killed. His reckless abandon is a great character study. I hope I was true enough to Frank Beddor's character. Bibwit was slightly more talkative and admonishing than he is in the books, but that was to serve my own purpose. I hope you enjoyed this and please, please, please leave a review to let me know what you thought!